Talking Points

Just by talking to people in your community, you can be a strong advocate for Oregon’s courts. The challenges facing our courts are complex, but our conversations need not be. Below are some key talking points. They will help you communicate clearly and effectively about the importance of our judicial system and the active role we can all play in protecting the courts from neglect and outside influence.

Key points—and supporting details—include the following:

1. Many people don’t understand just how serious the threats are to our justice system in Oregon.

  • Oregon judicial salaries are among the lowest in the nation.
  • The Oregon courts’ technology system was built in the 1980’s, and is unable to meet the needs of public safety partners, businesses or its citizens.
  • Due to lack of resources, there are not enough judges in Oregon to address the needs of its citizens, resulting in increased caseloads, case delays and lack of meaningful access to the judicial system. What’s worse, the judges lack the staff necessary to function efficiently.
  • Many county courthouses in the state have some level of life, health, safety issues – many are critical and have not been upgraded for earthquakes and do not meet current fire and life safety codes or capacity needs.
  • The state is unable to make forward-thinking investments such as criminal specialty courts for chemical dependency. Treatment courts have significantly better outcomes than traditional approaches and result in less recidivism (fewer repeat offenders).

2. The American system of laws and courts provides an effective way for individuals and businesses to resolve disputes fairly.

  • The American court system is based on the rule of law.
  • The American judicial system stresses consistency, predictability and transparency.
  • The rule of law is the principle that governmental authority may be exercised only in accordance with written, publicly disclosed laws that are enforced equally and only in agreement with established procedure.
  • As a result, we are a government of laws and not politics.

3. Changes in this system could eliminate legal services to those who need them most or make the process for choosing judges more susceptible to political or commercial pressures.

  • Recently there have been multiple attempts by special interest groups to politicize our courts.
  • We expect judges to decide disputes impartially, to protect individual rights even in the face of majority opposition and to be faithful to the law above all else.
  • Judges should be held accountable to the law and the people, but not any specific group of people favoring some laws over others.
  • Our existing system already affords ample safeguards against the abuse of judicial power because we elect appellate judges to limited terms instead of deferring to the executive to appoint judges for life as in the federal system. If a plaintiff or defendant does not like the verdict at the circuit court level, he or she may appeal to the Court of Appeals, and if one or more of the parties still disagrees with the verdict the case can be sent to the Supreme Court. A few cases go to the final step, which is the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Separation of powers demands that our courts function independently of the governor or legislature.